04 JAN 2018: My youngest son was about eight when he shocked the family by saying goodbye to his grandmother with a cheery, "Good riddance!" Fortunately, my mother-in-law knew the lad had got it wrong and laughed hilariously as she gave him a big hug.  

The expression in its entirety is of course, "good riddance to bad rubbish." Goodness knows where young Charlie heard the expression (in part) but parental interrogation revealed that he'd just thought it was a cool new way to say goodbye.

In my case, with a full understanding as to the meaning of the phrase - which dates back to Shakespearian times - I can put my hand on my heart and say, 'good riddance to 2017." It really was a year that for the travel world in general had little if anything to make it memorable: for good reasons at least.

Okay there were exceptions like TRAVEL + LEISURE naming Canada to its top honor of Destination of the Year citing, the country's sustained cultural relevance as well as its blend of world-class cities, eclectic cuisine and epic natural wonders - couldn't have said it better myself!

It was another kind of epic natural wonder however that helped make 2017 so memorably forgettable - this one goes by the handle Mother Nature. Perhaps she has been irked by global warming but whatever the reason, the old girl was in an historically destructive and utterly unforgiving mood last year.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season featured no fewer than 17 named storms, ranking alongside 1936 as the fifth-most active season since records began in 1851. The names that will haunt a lot of people's nightmares for a very long time however are Harvey, Irma and Maria. Between them they managed to destroy the lives and livelihoods of millions of people on the US mainland and throughout the Caribbean.

In mid-August Hurricane Harvey struck first as a tropical storm east of the Lesser Antilles. Harvey then moved northwest across the Yucatan Peninsula before heading into Texas as a Category 4 storm. Obviously Harvey loved Texas as he hung around for a record 117 hours causing massive flooding in Houston and its environs.

Then, as Hurricane Harvey dissipated in early September - along came Irma. She came off the coast of Africa as a tropical wave but soon intensified to become an extremely powerful storm with maximum speeds of 185 mph - the highest of all storms this season. Irma first took a tremendous toll on Barbuda, Saint Barts, Saint Martin, Anguilla, the US Virgin Islands and BVI's. She then moved westward to blast the Turks and Caicos and brush by Cuba and Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm before hitting the Florida Keys, Naples, Miami and even Jacksonville.

Next, just when everyone was crying 'uncle' in came a new problem called Maria. She proceeded to have her violent way with a 'who's who' of Caribbean islands - Dominica, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, and of course Puerto Rico. While PR had been largely spared by Irma, Maria devastated the island beyond belief. Official estimates as to how long it might take for the affected destinations and their residents to get their lives "back to normal" range from a couple of years to as much as a decade.

But as the Atlantic hurricane season was taking its grim toll, tragically another form of usually ISIS-inspired mayhem was once again on the march through some of the world's most popular tourist destination. Some of the worst were:

  •    March 22: London, on Westminster Bridge - 49 injured, five dead
  •    April 7: Stockholm, Sweden - 14 injured, five dead
  •    May 22: Manchester, UK - over 500 injured, 23 dead
  •    June 3: London on London Bridge - 48 injured, eight dead
  •    August 17: Barcelona, Spain - over 130 injured, 13 dead
  •    August 17: Cambrils, Spain - six injured, one dead
  •    October 1: Las Vegas – over 500 injured, 59 dead
  •    October 31: New York City - 11 injured, eight dead
  •  December 21: Melbourne, Australia - 14 injured

If there's any good news in there, it is surely that despite the rise of such random terror attacks, international tourism numbers don't seem to be much affected. Thankfully the spirit of, "If we stay home, they win" appears to be alive and well!

Other albeit far lesser "lowlights" of the year were the sudden rise of unsuspecting passengers being dragged off of airplanes by crewmembers and the general uncertainty and immigration chaos at US airports that resulted from the Trump administration's ill-conceived 'travel bans'. In his first year in office, Mr. Trump's xenophobic, isolationist leanings and policies did of course put a dark cloud over some inbound US tourism, but that can wait for another column.

So, good riddance to 2017 and, looking at all of the above, T + L would appear to have been incredibly smart in their choice of Destination of the Year. Long may it remain so.

 

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David Tait

David Tait's insight and irrepressible humour give us an insider's take on the airlines and the industry in general. He doesn't pull his punches, and readers find his weekly columns thoughtful, informative, amusing and infuriating – regardless, David's views on our industry are always original. 

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